“ Morgan’s Plan”
By, Katy Weltch
“Admiral, we need you in the Control Room. We’re receiving a very unusual distress signal.” Captain Lee Crane clicked the mic in his hand and waited for a response.
“Be right there, Lee” Admiral Harriman Nelson responded quickly from his cabin aboard Seaview.
Lee could picture him at his desk working on reports from their last cruise and smiled a little when he thought of the look of relief that would have crossed the Admiral’s face. Their last voyage had been difficult and Lee knew even the Admiral would be hesitating over those reports. He turned toward Sparks and asked, “Are you still getting the signal?”
“Yes, sir. It’s repeating every five seconds.”
“What it is, Lee?” The Admiral was beside the Captain seemingly moments after the call, another indication that he was glad for the respite. Curiosity was the heat that warmed the Admiral’s veins.
“We’re picking up a distress signal, the same thing repeating every five seconds.” He handed the Admiral the earphones.
“Old style code, very old. How did you know it was a distress signal, Lee? You would have been about five when this was last used.”
The captain grinned. “Kind of a hobby, Admiral. My friends and I used to confuse the neighbor kids with old style codes. Useful when planning pinecone retaliations.”
The Admiral snorted in amusement. “Let’s hope we don’t have to throw anything more harmful than a pinecone for this! Well we can’t ignore a distress signal, no matter how old it is. Sparks, respond to the message. Ask if we could be of assistance.”
“Yes, sir.” The Admiral tapped an impatient finger on the top of the communication equipment while they waited for a response. “Nothing, sir. It just keeps repeating, could be automatic. Do you want me to continue?”
“Yes, keep attempting contact. Do you have enough of a fix on that signal to give us a direction? Good. Lee, have the Flying Sub readied for launch. I want you and Chief Sharkey to join me aboard her, I think we’ll check this out.” The Admiral slapped the top of the console and swung about. “Maybe we’ll lob a few pinecones for you, Lee.”
“Maybe we will at that, Admiral!”
“Do you still have a fix on the signal, Seaview?” The Admiral touched the mic at his throat.
“Yes, sir, we do. According to Sparks you should be about to come into visual range momentarily.” Chip Morton’s voice replied over the Flying Sub’s communication system.
“Affirmative, Seaview, stand by. Do you see anything, Lee?” The Admiral glanced at the Captain seated next to him. He was looking through binoculars, sweeping the area ahead. “Nothing sir, clear waters so far. No wait, there’s something…just ahead.” He lowered the binoculars, “Admiral, it’s an island, straight ahead. The charts didn’t show an island here.”
“It’s small enough to have been missed. Let’s swing around and look for a beach. Maybe we won’t have to get our feet wet.” The Admiral tipped the Flying Sub, giving them a clear view of the perimeter of the island.
Lee caught a flash of light between the palms. “There, Admiral, we just passed a structure of some sort. There, you see it?”
“Yes, it looks like it’s built right into the rock.” He glanced at the Captain, raising a brow of inquiry. “The source of our signal?”
“Shall we find out?” The Admiral nodded his agreement and lifted the nose of FS1 and pointed her out to sea again. Swinging around he slid into the water just off the island and beached it with a smooth slide in the sand.
Nelson turned toward the Chief behind them. “Chief, break out the side arms while I contact Seaview and apprise them of the situation.”
In moments they were securing the hatch and heading toward the rise above. On another day it would have been a pleasant trek up through the palms. The sun was hanging above the ocean; it’s light sparkling on the choppy waves. The breeze gently blew through their hair. It was an invigorating change from Seaview’s recycled air.
It took half an hour for them to reach the edifice they had seen from the air. Before them stood a massive house, part brick, part stone. Large wooden double doors were closed against the afternoon sun and in the middle were a brass doorknocker. It was the size of a man’s hand, in the shape of an eagle and in its mouth was a brass ring.
“Well?” The Admiral looked at his two companions. “Would you like to do the honors, Lee?”
The Chief shifted nervously. “This reminds me of a movie I saw once. I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but it didn’t end good.” He noted the others expression and added, “I just thought you should know.”
“Thanks, Chief, we needed that.” The Captain firmly banged the ring against its metal plate. They waited for what seemed a long moment and he tried it again.
Chief Sharkey laughed weakly and muttered, “What a shame, nobody home.”
As if in answer, the doors slowly opened in, their hinges protesting the movement.
The Chief glanced at the Captain with an ‘I told you so expression’.
Spread before them in the dusky interior was a massive stone floor, black and uneven. Above, mounted on a thick support timber was a carving of an eagle, its tallens outstretched. Below this stood a man, seemingly dropped from the mighty claws of the bird above him.
“Gentlemen, welcome. I have been waiting for you. I must say you made exceptionally good time!” He smiled his greeting. His blond hair gleamed in the sunlight that penetrated the hall. His grey suit was perfectly tailored and on his hands he wore tightly fitting leather gloves. “Please come in. I’m afraid I will have to entertain you myself, I’m the only one here at present.” The three hesitated at the entrance. “Do please come in. I assure you it is cooler in here and I can be quite an entertaining host.”
He noticed the Chief eyeing the eagle with a leery look, “You like my carving? It was done for my father. He used to say that every feather stood for a secret that our family hid. Rather dour men, my father, not at all like myself. But he was full of quotations and sayings, volumes of them. Some were important, some were not, but I kept them all.” He motioned to the left with his gloved hand. “This way, gentlemen.”
He escorted them into a library. The walls were full of leather bound books. A stone fireplace backed against the back wall, empty and clean. The air smelled of leather and pipe tobacco. It would have been a comfortable room, if it hadn’t been so large.
The Admiral could easily loose himself in this room. He turned from his thoughtful inspection of their surroundings and addressed the man before them. “We received a destress signal originating from this island. What is the nature of your emergency?”
The man laughed merrily, “I needed company, Admiral Nelson, isn’t that emergency enough? Oh, you are surprised that I know your name?” His heavily lidded eyes closed slightly. “I know you, Admiral, I know all about you and your Captain. I’m afraid that I don’t know this gentleman. But I can tell by the insignia that he is a chief, so I will address him as such. Please sit down and I will explain as much as I can to you.”
Lee fixed him with a firm glance. “It had better be good, I don’t know if you realize how many laws you have broken...”
“Laws, Captain? Would you have come if I had extended a friendly invitation? I thought not.” He sighed, “You people are so busy; you understand it’s very difficult to get in touch. If you are patient I’m sure you will understand how important it all is. Please sit, let me explain.”
He led them to some leather chairs around the fireplace and poured them each a glass of wine. “My father kept a very good cellar, I’m sure you will appreciate this. Much like my story, we need to start at the foundation, the cellar, so to speak.”
The Admiral commented dryly, “You could start with your name. You seem to know ours.”
“Of course. It does put me to the advantage, doesn’t it? My name is Davis Morgan. Does that name mean anything to you, Admiral?”
He held the glass in his hand and watched the amber liquid. “The name seems familiar, but I can’t place it. Should it?”
Morgan shook his head sadly. “Yes it should, my dear, Admiral. It was also my father’s name. A man you discredited, ruined and threw out of the Nelson Institute. He was instrumental in designing the communication system on Seaview.”
“Yes…I remember. He was an expert in advanced communication design. Until…” the Admiral hesitated.
“Until he was caught selling secrets to an enemy government.” Morgan finished for him.
“Yes. The charge was treason and he went to prison.”
“And died there! A direct result of your testimony!” Morgan turned and threw the glass against the hearth.
The Admiral and his Captain exchanged glances. It was definitely time to go. “I’m sorry about your father, Morgan. He had choices to make, as we all have. He chose to make the wrong ones. I don’t see any purpose in continuing this, I believe my men and I will return to Seaview now. Thank you for the refreshment, if not for the company.” He rose to his feet and sat the full glass of wine on a table.
“I suggest you sit down, Admiral. I’m afraid we haven’t finished with our conversation as yet.” He turned with a determined look. “I think you will find it worth your while.”
“Is that a suggestion, or an order?”
“You may take it as you wish, I would prefer it to be an invitation.” He moved restlessly about the room. “As you said, my father was an expert in communications. I have learned from the best. Within this structure,” he motioned with a wave of his hand, “are some very sensitive signal detection devises. That was how I was able to know your Seaview was in the area. That was the part of my plan that took the most time. You had to be within a certain distance for me to identify your signal. I felt that the old style distress signal would peak your curiosity, Admiral. You know the amusing part of this is that all this was paid for from the funds that my father received from the sale of certain information. But I don’t think I need to elaborate more on that subject, do I?”
The Admiral smiled humorlessly. “No, I don’t think so. What do you want, Morgan, revenge? It’s not going to bring your father back.”
Morgan’s hand sliced through the air. “Don’t give me platitudes. I’m not interested! You had a choice to make, Admiral, you didn’t have to press charges - I hold you responsible!”
“If you hold me responsible, let these men go.”
“Admiral…” Lee began to protest.
“I’m afraid that’s not an option, my friends. In this case you are guilty by association and the die has already been cast.”
“What are you talking about, Morgan, what have you done?” The Admiral gripped the arms of the chair and leaned forward.
Morgan walked to the only window in the room and looked down at the darkening surf. “When I was very young my father told me that someday we would own a castle on the ocean. I used to dream about it. My father never lived long enough to see his castle; this was as close as I could come to it. You know, from the very top you could probably see your boat speeding towards us. The view is incredible. Of course, as you go farther back the stone begins to take over and the rooms are more caves than actual rooms. But the front is very impressive don’t you think? A monument to my father’s dreams and a tomb for my ideals.”
He looked at them almost sadly, “Having met you I’m almost sorry for this, but the hatred I feel overwhelms those feelings. I wanted you to know how it feels to know that someone you care for will most probably die. To feel the frustration of knowing that there is something you could have done, should have done.”
The alarm the Admiral was feeling could be clearly read on his face. “What have you done, Morgan?”
“I confess that the wine I served wasn’t entirely for hospitality. I’m afraid that I have poisoned your Captain. You understand that this is the part that I regret the most about my plan.”
The room darkened as the sun dipped below the horizon. The Captain said in a whisper, “I didn’t drink the wine.”
“You didn’t need to drink it Captain. The poison wasn’t in the wine; it was on the glass. Highly toxic and absorbed through the skin. Gloves aren’t an affectation with me, simply a protection. I’m sorry, Captain.”
There was a stunned silence for moments as the full intent of his words were absorbed. “You can’t be serious.” The Admiral raised out of his chair. “You wouldn’t commit cold blooded murder like this!”
“But then you really don’t know me at all, do you, Admiral? You don’t know what I’m capable of. But in response, no, I don’t intend to commit a completely cold-blooded murder. If I do that, how will you know that there was something you could have done? Somewhere within this house, this tribute to my father’s genius, is an antidote. You have two hours to find it, and then it will be too late. The Captain will begin to feel the effects before that, of course but, after two hours, he will be dead.”
From the pocket of his suit he drew out a small revolver and pointed it directly at the Chief. “I will leave you now. I’m sorry I can’t stay to see your adventure, but you must see that I would only be in the way.” He backed toward the library door. “Please don’t follow me, I am a very good shot and there is no need for you to have other deaths on your hands.”
“Morgan, wait! You can’t do this; it will take us more than two hours to search this house. Morgan, please!” The Admiral’s voice was urgent.
“What’s the matter, Admiral, already feeling the desperation? I understand that. So to let you know that I’m a fair man; someone with much more compassion than you showed my father, I’ll tell you one thing…I’ve already told you where it is! Good bye, gentlemen. May this be a life changing experience!” He backed out of the room and closed the door behind him.
“Admiral, we’ve got to get back to Seaview!” Chief Sharkey surged to his feet.
“There’s not enough time, Chief! By the time we could return, the doctors wouldn’t have enough time to come up with an antidote. We need to think!” The Admiral began to pace the stone floor, the carpet before the fireplace muted his steps. ”Think! Morgan said he gave us the answer already. We’ve got to remember everything he said.” He turned to Sharkey. “When we came through the door he said something to you.”
“The eagle, something about the eagle and the feathers. I was so busy looking around that I didn’t pay that much attention. But it was something about feathers and secrets.”
The Admiral was already heading toward the library door. “I’ll check out the eagle. Chief, you signal the Seaview. Find out how fast they can be here at flank speed. Lee…” his voice softened as he looked at the Captain. “You need to keep as still as possible, maybe it will slow the poison.”
Lee Crane smiled back at his friend, “If you don’t mind, Admiral, I think I would like to help as much as I can, for as long as I can. Right now time is the enemy and three sets of eyes are better than two.”
Nelson nodded. “Alright, Lee. But if we aren’t sucessful after an hour you will need to be as still as possible, do you understand?”
“Yes ,sir, I do understand.”
The Chief was already out the door as the Admiral and Lee stood looking up at the towering eagle above the entrance hall. The Admiral noted, “We need something to stand on…if we could move that table we should reach it.” They cleared the things off the table with a sweep of their hands and moved the table under the sculpture.
The eagle was carved of a solid piece of oak. The feathers were in relief, standing out anywhere from an inch to three inches. The Admiral slid his fingers behind each feather. There was nothing in any of the narrow, hollow spaces behind. He began to check the outline of the entire carving. It was so tight that he couldn’t get his fingers behind it at all. The dust indicated that it hadn’t been moved for a long time. “Step back, Lee.” He tugged at the sculpture. It seemed to be as solid as the wall itself. He pushed and prodded and was almost ready to pound his fists against it. The open beak of the mighty bird seemed to cry its mockery. “There’s nothing here, Lee, nothing.”
Crane laughed softly, “I didn’t think it would be that easy.”
The doors swung open with a screach of hinges. It had taken the Chief much less time to get down to the Flying Sub than it had taken them to walk up here the first time; he must have run. As if in testimony, his breath came in panting gasps as he said, “I couldn’t get any signal out to Seaview, and nothing in return from them. All communications are out.”
The Admiral had been suspicious of this. “I’m not too surprised, with the equipment he has, he problably jammed our signals before we were half way up the hill. At least when Seaview was cut off from us, Chip probably started heading here at top speed.” He got down off the table. “There is nothing in the eagle. What else did Morgan say?”
“He said something about the cellar. I remember because I thought it sounded so unusual. Something about the foundation…” The Captain shut his eyes, trying to remember the exact words. He snapped his fingers and said, “We need to start at the foundation, he said!”
The Admiral slapped him on the shoulder. “Very good! Let’s do exactly as he said. The cellar should be off the kitchen. If we have to try every door in this house we’ll find it! Chief you go that way. Lee, you and I will stay together and try this way.”
They all knew that he wanted to keep an eye on his friend but merely nodded in compliance. It was the Chief that found the kitchen and the Admiral was right, the door to the cellar was there.
Two bare light bulbs hung down from the low ceiling, lighting cobwebs and dusty rows of wine bottles. They looked about them for a moment, trying to see an obvious spot. The Admiral said, “We need to be very thorough,” he looked at them pointedly, “we won’t have time to look a second time!”
They started from where they stood, searching every inch of stone wall, removing every bottle from its cradle. They were filthy when they finished. It had taken thirty minutes to search the room. Thirty minutes of frustration as they cut their fingers on the sharp rock walls and bruised hands trying to open the unopenable.
“Nothing…” Lee peered around him trying to see what they could have missed. “Nothing…”
“There’s got to be something we missed!” Nelson threw an angry arm out in frustration.
“What, Admiral?” The Chief asked. “There aren’t any hidden doors, nothing behind anything. There isn’t a mouse in here that we haven’t seen. What could we have missed?”
The Admiral wiped a dirty hand across his brow, leaving a grubby line. “Then we have missed the clue. How are you feeling, Lee?”
“So far so good, Admiral.” He smiled encouragingly. “What’s our next step?”
“We have to remember every thing he said. Surely between the three of us we can remember even the smallest detail. We walked into the library and he gave us the wine. Did he say anything else about the house, anything…wait, he said something about the top, the view…”
“Right, he said that from the top you probably could see even the Seaview!” The Chief turned toward the cellar stairs.
The stairs to the top were harder to find than the cellar. Ten precious minutes were lost in the search. The room that they found was open to the night air. Rock pillars supported a gazebo type roof; there didn’t seem much of an area to hide anything in. A small pen light the Chief had was their only light. The only thing they found was an abandoned glass under a stone bench. The Admiral hurled it out into the night, they could hear it break against the rocks below. Another fifteen minutes. The Admiral said quietly, “Lee, after this you stay in the library, as still as possible.”
It was at the bottom of the stairs that a wave of weakness hit the Captain.
“Lee!” Fear deepened the Admiral’s voice as he and the Chief supported the Captain.
Lee smiled weakly. “Well there goes the faint hope that I wasn’t actually poisoned.”
“Let’s get you into the library. Lee, we still have time!”
He nodded as they almost carried him through the library doors. “Quite a treasure hunt, don’t you think, Admiral? The prize is my life!” They sat him in one of the chairs before the fireplace and pulled another over to support his feet.
The Admiral began to pace again; an animal caged in the bars of time. “We’ve missed something, something small. Let’s start at the beginning. Chief, we came into the doors. You saw the eagle.”
“Yes, then he said something about how it had been made for his father, each feather a secret. But we’ve searched the eagle!”
“I know, Chief, but I still think there was something about that conversation we’re missing.” He closed his eyes and tried to visualise the scene. “Chief, can you remember exactly what he said to you?”
“I don’t know about the exact words.”
“Try as close as you can!”
“Okay. He asked if I liked the eagle. It was for his father, each feather a secret. His dad was a grim, no, a dour man. He said a lot of important things and he kept them all. I don’t remember anything else. I think we came in here next.” He looked at the Admiral. “Does any of that help?”
The Admiral slowly brought his head up and stilled his pacing. “Yes it does, Chief, I think it gives us the possible location of the antidote. It’s the thing I’ve been trying to remember. He said he was full of quotations, volumes of them-and he kept them all!”
“Here, sir? You think it’s here, in the library?” He looked around them at the hundreds of books on the shelves. “How are we going to search these in time?”
“I think he gave us a very specific clue, Chief. We won’t search every book. What we’re looking for is a diary, or set of books that contain his father’s work. This is all about his father. I think in his mind it should end with his father.” He stepped over to check on Lee. The Captain’s breathing was becoming more labored, but he tried to smile up at him. “Hang on ,Lee, I think we may have an answer soon.” His friend nodded slightly. “Chief, start over there, look for anything about Davis Morgan, anything!”
Volumes of books were thrown to the floor in their haste. Some of them halfway across the room as their search became more frantic. It was a temptation to continuely check their watches as the minutes passed. The search took on a sluggish, nightmare quality.
“Here, Admiral!” The Chief exclaimed. He was standing on a ladder in front of one of the shelves. “Here! ‘A Study Of The Works and Thoughts of Davis Morgan’” The Admiral moved quickly over to the chief and took the heavy thick book from him.
He laid it on the table that Morgan had sat the wineglasses on an eternity ago. A small space had been cut inside, next to the binding. In the space was a glass vial. The Admiral’s hands were shaking slightly as he picked up the vial. “We have it! Thank God! Lee, we have it!” He looked at his watch, an hour and fifty-two minutes from the moment Lee Crane had picked up the wineglass.
Admiral Nelson watched the waves break against the nose of the Seaview, fascinated as he always was by the sight. A voice behind him broke into his reverie.
"Admiral, am I disturbing you?” Lee Crane stood behind him.
“What? Oh ,Lee, of course not.” He motioned to the chair next to him. “The Doctor decided to release you from Sick Bay?”
“Yes,sir, a clean bill of health. He thinks you had plenty of time for the antidote, as much as four or five minutes!” He laughed.
Nelson grimaced slightly. “We did cut it short didn’t we! Are you sure you’re up to full speed yet?”
The Captain nodded. “No lingering side effects from the poison. There is no word on Morgan. It seems he’s dropped from the face of the earth.”
“I know it won’t be any consolation Lee, but even if we never find him, the bitterness and hatred he holds inside him will eventually eat him up. He has created a prison from which he can’t escape! At least we found the antidote for the poison he gave you! There’s no antidote for his!”
“I guess that’s some consolation, Admiral. Although five minutes alone with him wouldn’t be bad either!”
It was the Admiral’s turn to laugh. “I definitely sympathize with that Lee, I do indeed! Take us home Lee, I think we could use a little time off, what do you think?”
“After those two hours on that island, I’m not sure I want to think about time at all! But I’ll head us home, Admiral. Then I think I’ll go somewhere I won’t have to look at a clock!”
Return to story index,
The Story Index
Return to Home Page,
The New Captain's Log